Gerontological Nurse Practitioner

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Gerontological Nurse PractitionerGerontological nurse practitioners are certified nurse practitioners who provide care to elderly patients. They work in a variety of settings. Gerontological nurse practitioners possess masters or doctoral level college degrees. They are primary care providers who are trained to treat and prevent acute and chronic health concerns of aging adults. 

All nurse practitioners work within the scope and practice rules of their individual state. Diverse regulations are decided by individual state governments regarding medication prescribing rights. States regulations determine whether or not a nurse practitioner must work in collaboration with a physician or not. State boards of nursing should be contacted regarding current legislation and scope of practice.

Gerontological nurse practitioners diagnose and treat physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of geriatric patients. They are adult nurse practitioners with advanced education regarding the needs of elders.  

Gerontological nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings. Some set up individual practices, providing their jurisdiction allows them to. Employment opportunities may be found in ambulatory care settings as well as inpatient facilities. Inpatient facilities that employ gerontological nurse practitioners include acute and long term care settings such as rehabilitation hospitals and nursing homes. Care management companies also employ gerontological nurse practitioners.

Educational preparation to become certified as a Gerontological Nurse Practitioner is guided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in addition to state laws. The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association offers certification opportunities for certified advanced practice registered nurses to obtain certification as a specialist in geriatrics. Course work is available online and on campuses.  A large component of independent study is required. All programs require lengthy internships with nurse practitioners and physicians.

In the future, a minimum of a doctoral level of preparation to practice as a nurse practitioner has been proposed. Individual states will make their own rulings. Doctorate of Nursing Practice degrees require two years of post masters level coursework.

Nurse practitioners must pass national board exams prior to practicing. Exams are administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. All states have continuing education requirements as well.

Nurse practitioners seeking certification as gerontological nurse practitioners receive education regarding specific needs of the elderly.  They learn about functional decline and how to promote an optimal level of functioning. Students learn how to provide detailed assessments of patients who often present with multiple co morbidities and complex health, cognitive and social challenges.   

The gerontological nurse practitioner’s job requires multi-focal expertise and creativity. Gerontological nurse practitioners treat patients suffering with illnesses and functional decline related to aging. Incontinence, dementia, mobility, and memory problems are often encountered. Constipation, dehydration, depression, and nutritional issues are common as well.

The nurse practitioner is in a leadership role that requires skill in coordinating services, comprehensive physical and mental assessments, and compassion.

The job description for a nurse practitioner includes multiple roles. Gerontological nurse practitioners provide restorative, preventative and palliative care. Gerontological nurse practitioners may make visits to homebound patients. Gerontological nurse practitioners employ disease prevention and treatment strategies. They order and interpret diagnostic tests while formulating diagnoses and evaluating care. Gerontological nurse practitioners plan and implement individualized plans of care with respect to patient needs, reimbursement restrictions, and available resources.

Gerontological nurse practitioners are instrumental in helping aging patients and their loved ones to navigate complex healthcare and social resources. They provide emotional support to caregivers supporting patients with complex symptoms such sensory impairments, memory loss, and immobility. Gerontological nurse practitioners facilitate patient and family decision making regarding long term care, life support, end of life care, and organ donation. They may conduct evaluations to see if elderly individuals are able to drive or live independently.

Gerontological nurse practitioners educate professionals, caregivers, and lay people about age related changes, safety precautions and community resources which help elders maintain independence. 

Gerontological nurse practitioners monitor health care of aged patients to ensure that cost effective, excellent quality health care is provided. They work with public and private insurance carriers to ensure reimbursement.

As baby boomers age, the need for qualified gerontological nurse practitioners is expected to grow. People are living longer with serious chronic illnesses for extended periods of time. Care needs for the elderly are at an all time high in the United States. As a result, the occupational forecast for gerontological nurse practitioners is excellent.

The average annual salary of a gerontological nurse practitioner is $95,000. It is possible to make $112,000 in many metropolitan areas.  Gerontological nurse practitioners are frequently eligible for comprehensive benefit packages as well. 

  • National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (www.caremanager.org/)
  • National Gerontological Nursing Association (www.ngna.org)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (www.aanp.org)

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